The Two Minute Crash Course on Picking a Field

Author: Dick Bolles

When a man is packing for a trip, he may throw in a dark blue blazer,  because "it can go anywhere."  Likewise, when a woman is packing for a trip, she may throw in "this little frock,"  because. again. it can go anywhere."

This idea, that you have something which could fit into a number of different situations, is probably the best introduction possible to the concept that your basic skills – whether they be "organizing," or "analyzing," or "writing," or "teaching," or "planning" – are like that frock or blazer: they can go anywhere. Therefore, you have to decide what field you'd most like to use your skills in,  what field or fields you'd be happiest employing your transferable skills in, because – believe me – where you'd be happiest is also where you'd be most effective. 

This is called "picking a field." Sounds easy. But I have learned over the past forty years that there is no subject where job-hunters and career-changers bog down more, than in figuring out their favorite field; so let me try to cut through the thicket by offering you ten ways to approach this.

  • What kinds of problems do you most like to solve?

    In a sense all jobs deal with problems, and if you are good at your work you have to learn how to solve them. So, the question is: What kinds of problems do you most like to solve: are they with people, or with data, or with things? You get to choose the answer to this question, because your transferable skills can go anywhere.

  • What kinds of questions do you most like to help people find answers to?

    Is it: what are the most popular videos this month? Or is it: how do I get my car to run longer? Or is it: what makes a marriage work? Etc. You get to choose the answer to this question, because your transferable skills can go anywhere.

  • What knowledge of yours do you most like to display, to other people?

    Is it historical trivia? Or is it knowledge of computers? Or is it knowledge of some foreign land or culture? Etc. You get to choose the answer to this question, because your transferable skills can go anywhere.

  • What are your favorite hobbies or interests?

    Computers? Gardening? Spanish? Handicrafts? Stamps? Skiing? Etc. Note that most hobbies are also industries. So, if you identify your favorite hobby, you may have identified your favorite field of interest, in which you can employ your transferable skill.

  • What are your favorite words, that you most like to be tossing around, all day?

    Every field is, in a sense, a language. For example, the language of theology is: God, love, forgiveness, compassion, sacrifice, etc. The language of computers is: keyboard, screen, interactive, Web site, Internet, e-mail, etc. Often your heart is guided to a field where you'd most love to use your transferable skills, by considering what your favorite vocabulary is. Your heart knows, before your head.

  • What's your definition of 'a fascinating stranger'?

    When you're at a party or conference, and you meet someone really fascinating, what is it that they talk about, that you find so fascinating? Granted that their expertise in that subject may be greater than yours, it's still often a very helpful clue as to where you might like to use your transferable skills.

  • What blogs, posts,  newspaper or magazine articles, do you most love to read?  

    I mean, dealing with what subjects? Let's say you get really interested when you see an article that deals with. ... what? Answering this, may indicate the field where you'd like to use your transferable skills.

  • What Internet sites do you most often gravitate to?

    "I gravitate to sites that deal with what subjects or fields?" Look at your bookmarks, here! There your favorite interests may lie naked before you, even if all other pathways prove to be dead ends.

  • If you watch TV, and it's a 'game show,' which categories do you hope the contestant will pick?

    Or, if it's an educational channel, what kinds of subjects do you stop and watch?

  • If you could write a book, and it wasn't about your own life or somebody else's, what would be the subject of the book?

    What would you most love to write on?

Once you've identified or chosen your favorite field, the rest is a piece of cake (comparatively speaking). All you have to do is figure out how your transferable skills can be 'worn' in that field. This is just a matter of "Informational Interviewing" or researching people in that field. That research is often easier than you'd think. For example, if you decide your favorite field is "Movies," just watch the closing credits next time you're in a theater. You'll get lots of useful clues as to what kinds of people are involved in making a movie.  Jot them down. Look on LinkedIn or the Internet in general, to locate such people. Ask them whatever it is that you want to know about that field.  Get them to introduce you to someone. And what a wonderful headline that could be, afterward: "I found my job while watching 'The Hunger Games.' "